April McGowan

Getting to Know You: Author Bonnie Leon

Me and BrandiPlease join me in welcoming best-selling author, Bonnie Leon, to my blog. I’m so excited to have her for my very first author interview! I’ve known Bonnie for several years, first meeting at an Oregon Christian Writers conference. She’s a compassionate and encouraging writing mentor, as well as an amazing author who weaves intriguing and authentic feeling fiction. Don’t forget to comment or ask your own question for a chance to win an ebook copy or signed paperback copy (your choice!) of The Journey of Eleven Moons.  You can read my review of her novel here.

Without further delay, please take a moment to get to know Bonnie Leon!

What inspired you to start writing?

I’m certain it was God. I didn’t plan to write, but one day late in 1989 I just had to spill my heart onto paper. I filled legal pads with my thoughts, personal experiences, short stories and poems. It became a part of my every day life.

He sent me reeling again in 1991. I’d been playing at writing, up until then. When a logging truck overturned and hit my van I was badly injured and unable to return to work. I wasn’t able to do much of anything and fell into a depression. What was I going to do with my life? I asked God to give me something to do. He told me to write. It wasn’t easy at first. I felt empty. But gradually the words started flowing. And what had been a hobby became a way of life.

 How long did it take you before you were first published?

While attending my first writing conference in 1992, I was inspired to write my first novel. I returned home and over the next ten months I discovered what it meant to create a novel. What an amazing experience. The story and its characters came to life. I was astounded by the whole process.

The following summer at the OCW (Oregon Christian Writers) Summer Conference I presented the manuscript to the acquisitions editor for Thomas Nelson Publishing. I nearly fainted when she said she liked it and could I send her the first three chapters. And when she contacted me a few weeks later requesting the entire manuscript I was truly stunned. Several weeks later I received a postcard in the mail saying she couldn’t find my phone number (tip – always include an email address and phone number) and would I please call her. Hands shaking, I picked up the phone. Thomas Nelson wanted to publish my book! I was flabbergasted. Who sells the first book they’ve ever written to the first publisher to read it?

My first sale happened quickly, but the writing journey has been a lot of hard work with lots of mountain tops as well as deep valleys. Still, I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or both?

All my books, thus far, have been fiction, but I just completed a memoir (which is a lot like fiction) for a Native American woman who grew up in the Alaskan wilderness. I’ll share more with you about this book below.

I don’t foresee me writing non-fiction. I’m a storyteller at heart and love to create a tale that captures the heart and mind.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from all sorts of places. Sometimes they just pop into my mind and begin to reveal themselves. There are some that begin with a character. Other times I find them in scripture. There are a lot of amazing stories in the Bible. They don’t need to be told as Biblical fiction, but can be transported to another time and place. And history has so much to say. Often when I’m doing research for one book I find a piece of history that begs to be fashioned into a story.

How much research, if any, do you do when writing a book? 

Research is a huge part of storytelling. And it never stops. Sometimes I go digging for a detail even when a book is in print. As a writer, I’m committed to authenticity. I work hard to make certain the backdrop is true to life and accurate. That can only happen if I’m willing to immerse myself in the time and place. And the only way a reader can be immersed in a story is if the staging is authentic and captivating. To make that happen takes more hours of research than I can count, but I would guess it’s in the hundreds of hours.

Do you use an outline, or do you prefer to write by the seat of your pants?

I’ve always admired seat of your pants writers. I’ve wished that I could do that. It looks like so much fun. However, I admit to being a plotter. Before I can get down to writing I need to create an outline. It’s like a map that leads me through the scenes and plots twists of a story. But I do love those times when something completely unexpected shows up and carries me places I’d never even thought of. When I get done writing those scenes I sit back and ask, “Where did that come from?” I usually don’t know, but that’s okay because I’ve had a lot of fun creating it.

Where do you write? 

I have an office that is part of my home. For years I sat at my computer at my desk, but now I do my writing in a big leather recliner. I actually work better and faster at a desk, but my back won’t take the hours of sitting in an office any more. It needs pampering.

I’ll be moving in a couple of months to a new home and my husband and I designed my office so I have a million dollar view while I work. That is if I still get any work done.

What are your hobbies/interests (other than writing)? 

Hobbies? What are those? I used to have some. These days, my life feels crammed full of responsibilities. My writing takes up a huge chunk, along with social networking. Plus my aged mother moved nearby and she needs a lot of my time. I don’t mind, but it does cut into other activities. Also, I live close to family and we spend lots of time together. Actually I’m living with my youngest daughter and her family now while the new house is being built. I enjoy gabbing with my daughter and grandkids, probably too much.

Family is a beautiful part of my life, bringing laughter and joy and even heartache. I’d never trade them for hobbies.

All that being said, I am a movie buff. I absolutely love a good movie, all kinds except horror. My favorites are those based on true stories. I also read whenever I can. And my husband promised me that next summer, when he’s not building a house, we can take the boat up to the mountain lakes and do some fishing, which is my favorite hobby.

Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you think that effects your writing?

I’m definitely an extrovert. I love people and enjoy spending time with friends and family. One of the highlights of my week is our church home group. It is fun to get together with other believers and talk about life and God and to pray and worship together.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found I need time alone when it’s just me and the wind in the trees and the sound of happy birds.

When I first started writing I wondered how a “people person” like me ended up spending the majority of her time at a computer, but I’ve made peace with it. I think the reclusive writing part of my life has helped me appreciate the time I get to spend outside my office. And the extrovert part of me makes social networking easier and more fun.

Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was your inspiration?

Eleven Moons cover vfinal front coverThe Journey of Eleven Moons is actually the first book I wrote and published. I have always loved the story, but when I reread it a couple of years ago, I saw right away that it was written by a newbie writer—me. I wished I could rewrite it and decided that 2013 was the year to recreate the book and I set to work. It was more difficult than I’d imagined, but I’m thrilled with the results. It is a much better book now.

It takes place in Alaska in 1886 and tells the tale of Anna and her sister, Iya, who are left to survive on their own after a tsunami destroys their village. There is a blue-eyed stranger who has wandered onto their Aleutian island. He offers to help the two native girls, but Anna is convinced he cannot be trusted. She is faced with a quandary—trust him or perish.

A family story inspired the book. My grandmother was Aleut and she grew up in Unalaska, Alaska. One day as a young woman she stood on a bluff and watched a tsunami slam into the shore below her. The image always stayed with me and when it was time to write my first book my grandmother’s experience grew into what became The Journey of Eleven Moons.

What project can we look forward to seeing next?

As I mentioned above, I’ve written a memoir. It is an amazing tale of a Native American woman, Lily, who grew up in the Alaskan wilderness during the 1940’s and 1950’s. She lived a life unlike any I’ve ever known. Her father was a true mountain man and Lily grew up in the shadow of his brutality. Against all odds, she survived and even thrived.

Is there a subject you’ve longed to write about, but haven’t had the chance?  

Yes. Of course. My mind and heart are full of ideas. I’m a writer, after all.

I do have a story I’m working on right now. It’s been tugging at me for many years, but I always seemed to be caught up in a new historical without time for something more. It’s a contemporary tale about overcoming—finding hope and fulfilling dreams even when life seems to be without purpose and full of despair.

The huge life change after my accident inspired this story. Finding my way out of darkness and into a place with purpose and even joy wasn’t easy and is something I still struggle with some of the time. There are many others, like me, who have been forced to find a new way to live. I hope to shed light on the process and have fun along the way.

If you’ve written other books, could you please list their titles or series name? 

Northern Lights Series

The Sowers Trilogy

A Sacred Place

The Matanuska Series

The Queensland Chronicles

The Sydney Cove series

Alaskan Skies series

Where can your readers go to connect with you online? 

They can connect with me on my website at www.bonnieleon.com or subscribe to my blog at http://bonnieleon.blogspot.com and my Facebook author page here.

Where can readers find your latest release? 

It will be available on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.christianbook.com, www.ashberrylane.com and all the other usual places.

Thanks so much for joining us Bonnie!

Readers, and please leave a comment or ask your own question below for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Journey of Eleven Moons.

 

30 Comments

  1. Tina LaMar
    Nov 18, 2013

    The original Journey of Eleven Moons is one of my all time favorite books. It drew me right in and started me on a journey to read and own each of Bonnie’s books. I was very excited to get my hands on the new version of Journey of Eleven Moons. Re-reading this book has made me feel like I was coming home to long lost friends. I highly recommend this book! It promises to be the best read I’ve had in 2013!

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Tina, I’m deeply touched. How amazing to hear that The Journey of Eleven Moons spurred you on to read the rest of my books. And I’m thrilled to hear that the same story, all these years later, is one of your best reads of 2013. You’ve made my day!

      • Tina LaMar
        Nov 18, 2013

        You are most welcome, it is the truth, not just flattery. ( :

  2. 4readin
    Nov 18, 2013

    What a neat story! God can bring so many good things from the bad.

    What is one place you would love to visit? Either fictional or real?

    Thanks so much for coming by!

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Absolutely true. God is all about working out His plans in spite of circumstances and maybe even because of them.

      I’m longing for a return trip to Alaska, and trying to find a way to make it happen next summer. I have a lot of family throughout the state that I need to see and what an amazing place. I would prefer driving the Alcan Highway up and back. It is full of exciting sites and interesting history.

      If I could choose one place in the world to visit that I’ve never seen it would be Scotland. I’ve been told it has absolutely gorgeous countryside and I’d love to visit the historical sites. My family roots on my father’s side are Scottish. I am from the original Campbell clan.

  3. the Alaskan sky series was the first books Iread of yours. Have you ever been to Alaska?.Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your life.

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Yes. I’ve been to Alaska, but it’s been too many years since. I believe I’m the only one of my siblings that hasn’t lived there, but I’m the one who writes about it. Interesting.

      One of the beautiful things about writing stories that take place in Alaska is that I get to visit every day, in my imagination, through research and story telling. Pretty cool, huh?

    • April
      Nov 19, 2013

      Sharon, you won! I’ve sent you an email to the address you posted from. OR you can use the ‘CONTACT APRIL’ form and send me a better one 🙂 Congratulations!

  4. Kristen G. Johnson
    Nov 18, 2013

    Great interview!! Thanks

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Kristen, I agree. I think April did a great job with the questions. Thank you, April. 🙂

      • April
        Nov 18, 2013

        It was such fun interviewing you, Bonnie 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Laura Pol
    Nov 18, 2013

    Great interview! I think it’s so interesting reading about different authors writing journeys! Thanks for the giveaway!
    sylvesternator (at) yahoo (dot) com

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Thank you, Laura. A good interview has a great deal to do with the questions. I like that April didn’t use worn out questions, we’ve hard a 100 times before.

      And I love to do giveaways. It’s an opportunity to introduce a story to a new reader or to offer a fan something for free. I love my fans. My writing career would be dead in the water without them.

  6. Sherrie Ashcraft
    Nov 18, 2013

    Thank you, April and Bonnie, for a great interview! I felt like I was just sitting down having a cup of coffee with both of you. Ashberry Lane is thrilled to have been able to re-introduce this story to the world!!

    • April
      Nov 18, 2013

      Thanks for stopping by, Sherrie 🙂 It was great fun to do the interview, and I LOVED the book.

      • Bonnie Leon
        Nov 18, 2013

        Sherrie, it has been a privilege to work with you and Christina. You both can be proud of the work you do at Ashberry Lane. Your publishing house has breathed new life into the novel, The Journey of Eleven Moons.

        I can now recommend the book to readers and feel confident they will be caught up in a well crafted story and enjoy an Alaskan adventure that includes the heart of God and the heart of man.

  7. Myrn
    Nov 18, 2013

    Bonnie Leon is my sister. Let me just express publicly how proud I am of her. It has been such a long and painful journey for her to get where she is, but one also filled with many joys. I have had the privilege to sit and brainstorm with her over the years of new story lines, some of which are in print today. Those days were so much fun, filled with lots of laughter and even a few tears.

    I remember when Journey of Eleven Moons was first published and how excited Bonnie was as well as the rest of our family. I was a time of rejoicing. I have rejoiced with her over the publication of all her subsequent books, but in my heart, none have a story that compares with this one. Maybe it’s because it’s Bonnie’s first book, but the story touches a cord deep within my heart. Bonnie, thank you for sticking with it; for listening to God’s voice to keep writing when it was so hard to write. You are using God’s gift and God is using you in the lives of people in a way that you will never know until you reach heaven.

    Because I am currently a full-time student, I have not yet had the opportunity to read the revised edition of The Journey of Eleven Moon, but once this semester is over, I plan to sit down and read it from cover to cover. Can’t wait!

    • April
      Nov 18, 2013

      Thanks for commenting, Myrn! So nice to meet you 🙂

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      First off, stop making me cry.

      I have good memories of our brainstorm sessions. I miss those times. And all the support and encouragement from my family made all the difference. Thank you, Myrn, for believing in me.

      Love you Sis.

  8. Lisa Mingay
    Nov 18, 2013

    April, you make it difficult to come up with additional interview questions, you’ve done such a great job already..! I love your story, Bonnie! With which female Biblical character do you most relate?

    • April
      Nov 18, 2013

      Oh, that’s a great question, Lisa 🙂

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 18, 2013

      Lisa, that is a good question. I’m not sure how to answer. I guess it would have to be the adulterous woman the Pharisees were going to stone. Not necessarily because of her sexual sin, though I have experienced that (long ago), but because she is a sinner saved by God’s grace. I can feel Jesus love as he looks at her and says he will not condemn her and that she should go and sin no more. I am so grateful for his mercy and love.

  9. Janet Chester Bly
    Nov 19, 2013

    Bonnie: Haven’t had the privilege of reading your books…yet. Enjoyed this interview. Related to your not having ‘hobbies’ anymore. Congrats on getting your book redone & re-released, able to step it up a notch. I’m doing that with many of our books too. Very satisfying kind of project. Blessings to you, Janet

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 19, 2013

      I hope you’ll have an opportunity to read The Journey of Eleven Moons. This is my first experience at re-releasing a book. It’s been quite a learning experience. How many books have you brought out a second time? I’d like to try one. Which do you recommend?

      • Janet Chester Bly
        Nov 19, 2013

        Oh, boy, have done scads of re-do projects over the years. Most recently, 17 of hubby Stephen Bly’s novels to be featured on the new Books on the Dusty Trail website: http://dustytrailbooks.com/. Would suggest you try It’s Your Misfortune & None of My Own (historical, Book 1, Code of the West Series) or The Lost Manuscript of Martin Taylor Harrison (contemporary, Book 1, Austin-Stoner Files). They are on Kindle or paperback editions.

  10. April
    Nov 19, 2013

    I tossed everyone’s names in my daughter’s hat and my son drew out:
    Sharon Martin! You are our winner of an ebook copy, or signed paperback copy of The Journey of Eleven Moons! HURRAY! Congratulations!

  11. prowessandpearls
    Nov 22, 2013

    What a wonderful interview April! It’s amazing how the writing bug hits all of a sudden. How awesome was it that her first book got picked up by the first publishing company(Thomas-Nelson at that). 🙂

    Congrats on a successful writing career Bonnie…praying for your continued success!

    • April
      Nov 22, 2013

      Thanks, Prowess. Bonnie’s success is certainly an inspiration!

    • Bonnie Leon
      Nov 22, 2013

      Thank you Pearls. God opened every door, in fact he threw them open, which was a big help to me. That way I knew what I was supposed to do.

      And thank you for your prayers – always needed.

      Bless you.

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